If you love to cook like I do, you understand that one of the joys of cooking is the never-ending opportunity to learn and experiment with new recipes and techniques. For this foodie, The Splendid Table podcast, with Francis Lam, is my go-to source for food entertainment and education on long drives and morning walks. On one of my recent morning walks, I listened intently to an interview with one of the authors of the Onions Etcetera, the Essential Allium Cookbook.
If you know cooking, you know onions are everything. They are the building blocks of practically every savory recipe. But too often, that’s where the consideration ends. The onion is often relegated to the background and not the star of the show. So when I heard about this book, which is dedicated to the humble onion, and listened to coauthor Kate Winslow talk about onion tacos, and red onion blossoms, and how the book is divided into chapters dedicated to each category of allium, I was sold.
The book is gorgeous. All the photography is done by Kate’s husband and New Jersey native, Guy Ambrosino. Inspiring shots of the recipes and ingredients line every page and beg you to get cooking. I love their attention to detail. Even the book’s edges are the color of a red onion. Brilliant.
Correspondence Is Key
I also enjoyed the stories behind each recipe and was delighted to find that the authors currently live in Lambertville, one of my favorite New Jersey towns. I decided to send Kate an email to tell her how much I adore her book and she more or less replied back “Come for lunch.” I was not about to say no to that invitation!
My GPS led me down the streets of Lambertville which, to me, looked more like driveways than roads to their studio. Kate and Guy had just recently moved in. The space is a dream for anyone who loves old buildings and bright, sunny rooms, like me. I was truly envious of the space: the perfect office / food photography studio.
Kate and Guy guided me to the back of the room, where they had set up a beautiful lunch with a bright red tomato dish called Ammogghiu, which means admiration in Italian. It’s one of the recipes the couple brought back from Sicily and thankfully it made its way into their book. There was fresh mozzarella and grilled eggplant, both from local farms, plus perfectly toasted bread (which I crunched on throughout our entire recorded conversation. And no, I won’t be sharing that.)
Willie Nelson’s rendition of “Georgia on My Mind” played softly in the background as we sat down to enjoy the spread and talk about their cookbook.
Life Before Onions
Guy and Kate met after college, in Santa Fe. They both worked for the same weekly newspaper and quickly discovered their mutual love for exploring their community and food. When Kate landed a coveted job as an editor in Gourmet Magazine’s book department, they spent many years living in a small apartment in Brooklyn.
When their son turned 3, it was time for a change. A friend suggested they check out Italy and that sounded like a plan—of sorts. So they sold their apartment and headed to Sicily. What was supposed to be a month’s stay turned into a year.
When it was time to come back to the states, the couple knew they didn’t want to move back to New York. They started exploring and fell in love with the smalltown life of Lambertville.
So far, I’ve made the Red, Red Jam, the Kalbi (Korean beef ribs) and with the explosion of cucumbers coming from my garden, I’ve turned to Sylvie’s Thai Cucumber Salad recipe many times this summer. And now I also have Kate’s Pickled Red Onions in my fridge on a regular basis. All the recipes I have tried are excellent, but the Red, Red Jam sits at the top of my list. I love condiments that compliment so many things. It is wonderful with pork, and fantastic with swordfish. It works on sandwiches. I even served it with a smoked meatloaf—really, the combinations are limitless.
Kate told em about her favorite recipes in the book. I especially wanted to know about the jam and other condiment recipes of which there are many. “We do a lot of condiment cooking,” she said.
“We just pull stuff out of the fridge and plunk it on the table and people can do whatever they want,” she continued. Now, that’s my kind of entertaining. And Red, Red Jam is my kind of recipe. Read on so you can make it yourself!
Recipe: Red, Red Jam
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 medium red onions, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary (I used fresh oregano)
- 2 cups dry red wine
- ½ cup maple syrup, preferably grade B
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
Combine the olive oil and onions in a large skillet over moderately high heat. Season well with salt and pepper, and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
While the onions cook, strip the rosemary leaves and chop them. Add to the onions, along with the red wine. Bring the mixture to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently, uncovered, until the wine is almost completely reduced, about 40 minutes.
When the wine is almost reduced, add the maple syrup and vinegar to the onions and continue to simmer gently until the liquid is reduced and the onions are jam-like but still juicy, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and serve at once. Or, cool completely before refrigerating for up to 2 weeks.
Since I was lunching with two foodies in Lambertville, I had to find out what local restaurants and resources they frequent for good food and ingredients.
Kate couched her answer by saying, “We eat in a lot.” Still, they do have a few faves.
- Liberty Hall: great pizza
- Manon French Bistro: a lovely place for a beautiful french dinner
- Tapas Cancun: a little taco place with authentic food and a cute patio in back
Kate and Guy also raved about The Farm Cooking School, which is now on my must-visit list. Guy did all the photography for their cookbook as well.
We ended our visit with some delicious French-pressed coffee and fresh peaches and cream. It was a lovely visit with two like-minded cooks and food enthusiasts. Their stories of Italy had me dreaming of making a similar pilgrimage. Kate signed my book “Let’s keep in touch and cook together soon.” I would love that.